The Truth About Old Wives’ Tales

Discover the truth about old wives’ tales. Does the five-second rule really work? Will cracking your knuckles give you arthritis?

  • A young woman with the flu blows on a spoonful of soup to cool while sitting in a bathrobe on the couch.
    Photo by Fotolia/iofoto
  • A young boy reaches out to touch a frog someone else is holding.
    Photo by Fotolia/sonsedskaya
  • A little girl outdoors on a summer day, sitting in a white garden chair, holding a bouquet of dandelions.
    Photo by Fotolia/ElinaManninen
  • A dog chewing on a bone in a yard.
    Photo courtesy Potrokhova Kateryna & Dmitry Lar

So there you were, jawing with a neighbor, when you suddenly heard your great-grandmother’s words come out of your mouth! But don’t worry; it wasn’t a case of past lives. No, you’ve been hit by … old wives’ tales.

Eons ago — sometime between banging on logs and logging onto the Internet — information was typically passed down by spoken word, and usually in the form of catchy little sayings that were easy to remember. Those sayings were called old wives’ tales — not because they came from old married ladies, but because “wife” was another word for “woman,” and women were more likely than men to share advice. At certain points in history, the term may have been somewhat derogatory, asserting that the advice given by older women should be doubted and even ridiculed.

Today, if you pay attention, you might be surprised at how much those old wives’ tales insert themselves into your everyday life. You can predict the weather by them, cook with them, stay healthy by following them — or can you? Where did Great-Granny get her knowledge? What was true, and how much was oh-so-wrong?

Health signs

The biggest category of old wives’ tales, it seems, involves myths on how to take care of yourself … but how many of them should you pay attention to?

Reading in dim lighting and/or sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyes.

FALSE. According to experts, neither will ruin your eyes, but they can make your eyes tired or strained.

6/24/2014 7:43:09 AM

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